“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.” ~Colette
The last couple of weeks have been easy, too easy. It’s only been twenty-six days since my Dad died, but it feels like its been longer. It feels like a lifetime already, and yet at the same time it still feels like the day before. That doesn’t make any sense, does it? That’s okay, I don’t get it either.
It hit me a bit harder today. I took the afternoon off work to do some things around the house, and organize some of Dad’s paperwork in preparation for some calls I need to make soon. While I was sorting through things, I decided to open a box the funeral home sent over. I wanted to see the list of people who signed their names in the book, I wanted to know who was sitting behind me when I was too afraid to turn around and look. I was impressed by the list, but it was the envelope full of sympathy cards I found inside that did me in. It’s always the unsuspecting that strikes. My Aunt re-telling a story from my cousin, about my Dad visiting him in the hospital and bringing him chocolate bars when he broke his leg… and a family who lived down the street from where I grew up, telling me that Dad had kept them up-to-date on our lives and they wished us the best. And then I pressed play on the DVD slideshow of photographs that the funeral home had put together, and it was beautiful. So many pictures of my Dad, happy and energetic and alive.
Today it hit me just a little bit more.
I spent so much time before, feeling resentful towards my parents and wondering how I would navigate a future relationship with my Dad. I’d wondered if I had children someday, how I could let them have a heathy relationship with him. It was all pointless though, because I don’t get to have a future with him, and neither will they.
I’d always known my Dad wouldn’t live to be one hundred, and there was a time in my teens I spent worrying he would die, but these past few years… he’d seemed better. He seemed healthier and maybe not entirely happy but happier none the less. I’d stopped worrying about losing him and worried about keeping him instead. And then he was gone, just like that. One minute I was scolding myself for forgetting to check in with him and the next I was sitting in my car in the shoe store parking lot with my phone to my ear, listening to my Grandfather tell me he was dead. He was fifty-two.
The realizations hit me slowly, if they’ve hit me at all yet. My Dad will never see me get married, my brother will have to walk me down the aisle instead. I’ll never again open up one of his tacky but thoughtful Christmas presents, and I can’t get mad at him for his smoking habits anymore. I’ve been begging my Dad to quit for years, it took him dying for me to get my wish.
In my jewelry box is this silver watch my Dad gave me a few years ago. I don’t wear it because I have nicer, more expensive watches, but I’ve always kept it because my brother told me about how Dad had drug him around from store to store one year, trying to find the perfect present for me. Dad didn’t have a lot of money, but he knew me and he loved spoiling me when he could. He was like my Grandma like that, full of thoughtfulness and love. When I was a teenager, for one of my birthdays, he got me this purple toned picture of a dolphin, in a gold frame. It’s hanging on my bedroom wall. These things, may not be very expensive… but in the instant my Dad died, their sentiment increased. Along with some photographs, and a couple father’s day cards I found tucked in his files, these things are all I have left of him. Just material possessions. I’ll treasure them dearly for the rest of my life, but they won’t ever replace his bear-hugs, or the sound of his voice when he said “I love you, Princess”.
Somehow now, I have to figure out how to navigate life without him. I’ve got to keep on keeping on, all the while waiting for the unexpected surge of emotion to strike. I’ve got to learn to look at my brother and not be surprised when I see flashes of Dad, and learn to take comfort in their presence instead. I’ve got to figure out how to smile every time I miss him. I’ve got to trust that he’s with Grandma now, watching over us. I guess I’m just not really sure how this is going to pan out. Losing people is not a new concept for me, but it’s not the same this time. I just don’t understand this at all.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” ~Kahlil Gibran